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A thorn in Durbies’ flesh !  Outeniqua full-back Matthew Thorne dives over
for one of his side’s nine tries in their 57-19 win at home against
Durbanville on Saturday 27 July 2019.  (photo: Gavin Falck)

In case you hadn’t noticed it, we’re reaching the business end of the schoolboy rugby season faster than a Herschel Jantjies blindside dart.  However, for those of you who haven’t been keeping a close eye on proceedings, the arrival of the huge Paarl interschools on Saturday 3 August 2019 should serve to remove any lingering doubts.

The Gym - Boishaai showdown apart, there is also the meeting of the two other out-of-town schools, Boland Landbou and Paul Roos at the Farm, to look forward to.  Since Bishops will be travelling the 980-odd kilometres to Grahamstown for their big derby with St Andrew’s, the only big game scheduled for the city is SACS vs Rondebosch up in Newlands.  

The positive spin-off of the Bishops match is that their home game against Wynberg will now take place on the morning of Friday 9 August 2019, a public holiday.

The two SWD giants both face daunting assignments, Oakdale at home to Grey College and Outeniqua away to Framesby in Port Elizabeth, while, locally, Punt welcome Langenhoven Gym to Mossel Bay for their interschools day.

The Boland highlights include Hopefield hosting Robertson, Charlie Hofmeyr visiting Montagu and an interesting math at Bosvarkpark between Worcester Gym and Parel Vallei.

There are probably as many predictions regarding the possible outcome of the Paarl game as there are people who are reckless enough to make them.  Frankly, the names of the players concerned are so well known by now that simply trotting them out again here would be a waste of space.

I’ve opted to examine the two teams’ strengths in the various areas of the contest.

Firstly, the front row.  Here Gym have a really good chance of outshining the Brug Street boys for the first time in a good while.  Sure, Rhynhardt Rijnsburger and Allister Williams constitute a pretty formidable pair, but, in Gerhard van Niekerk, Liam Compion (hopefully he’ll be passed fit) and Jovan Bekker, Gym have a very strong trio, the first two of whom have delivered fifteen tries to the Boishaai pair’s seven.

Gym might well shade the second row as well, given that that is one area in which their opponents have a perceived weakness.  The line-out work of Marco van Rhyn is outstanding, while fellow-lock Reynhardt Crous is a powerful forager.

Boys’ High’s loose trio are hard to surpass, the brilliant Gideon van Wyk, joint top try scorer in the team with thirteen five-pointers, thriving off the high workrate of Stass Nel.  Pierich Siebert and no.8 Juan Wilson have also contributed thirteen tries and are tigerish in the loose, but, for sheer toughness, Van Wyk and Nel represent a tough mountain to climb.

The halfbacks balance each other out to a certain degree.  The advantage Bobby Alexander gives Gym behind the pack is pretty well counterbalanced by the consummate skills of Boishaai pivot Kian Meadon, revelling in his SA Schools selection after justifiable Craven Week disappointment.

Jandré Burger is no slouch, but Meadon’s vision and the apparent advantage of that extra split-second that brings is unfortunately not something that can be learned.

Even against a fit Gym centre pair, Tyler Bocks and Quan Horn are hard to beat.   In the mould of the Oosthuizen-Whipp WP/Springbok partnership of yore, Bocks is a master provider, leaving the finishing to the nuggety Horn.  Believe it or not, the former has only dotted down three times this season, while the latter has thirteen tries to his name.

Question marks surround the Gym pairing.  Will Ethan James be fit, having just made his return after a lengthy injury break, and what of the hamstring injury suffered by Stephan du Toit against Wynberg?  In all honesty, though, the answers are unlikely to make much difference.

The duel for supremacy out wide should be an intriguing one.  Boishaai’s Angelo Osch and Javier Farmer have amassed 21 tries, while Stravino Jacobs and Curwin Gertse have bolstered Gym’s tally by a staggering 29.  Stats don’t tell the full story and it is this columnist’s belief that the vision shown by Jacobs might well decide the contest in Gym’s favour.  Then again, Gimmies supporters you won’t need reminding how Farmer broke their hearts a year ago.

Both full-backs are very accomplished.  Jacques Rousseau (five tries), a canny counter-attacker, laid out his cards with a fine all-round performance - at flyhalf, no less - as early as in the season-opener against HTS Drostdy, but Tiaan Swanepoel (six tries) has shown himself to be a strong pillar in defence.  His job doesn’t involve venturing forward nearly as much as Rousseau does, but, when asked to - as happened as recently as towards the end of last Saturday’s game against Wynberg - he knows just where the important whitewash lies.

The winner ?  Rugby, plus the excitement of one’s being a part, however small, of such an awesome occasion !

By comparison, just about any fixture is likely to pale into relative insignificance, even Boland Landbou vs Paul Roos.  Then again, given the uninspiring form these sides have shown this year, that “even” should probably be “especially”.

That said, the Farmers could well see this match as representing a chance at redemption ahead of the interschools in Oakdale on Saturday 10 August 2019.

Their opponents are also gearing up for a major confrontation, at home to Grey College a week later, so they are not going to be in the mood to dole out any favours.

Basically, defeat in both their remaining fixtures would be seen as a major dent in either school’s already flagging reputations.

The Maroons can at least lay a large part of the blame at the doors of their World Schools circus and SANIX, which, when combined, lulled them into a false sense of security.  For their hosts, the writing started appearing at the North-South event when Helpmekaar took about as much time to sort them out as a street-smart kid spends solving a Rubik’s cube.

The defensive capabilities of the two sides may well be crucial, although, one suspects, the Eikestad eight ought to secure more possession, courtesy of Messrs Rodgers, Ebersohn, Weilbach, De Leeuw and Cairns, despite Windmeul hooker Tehan du Plessis always being full of fight..

Both sets of fast men boast proven trys-corers: the Farmers in Canan Moodie and Keanan Wentzel (eighteen tries between them); Paul Roos in Andrew Pegg and Luke Burger (twenty tries), so it will be interesting to see what happens if and when the ball is swung wide.

It’s a pity that such a fixture should have to enjoy lower status than usual, but the wheel of fortune is bound to turn back again sooner rather than later.

Both SACS and Rondebosch will be hitting the field on the back of successive defeats, which should inspire both teams to be extremely concerned about sorting out their frailties before their interschools matches against Wynberg and Bishops respectively.

The Bosch pack ought to have the upper hand, with Matt Gray, Will McDonald and Josh King a constant collective thorn in any opposition’s flesh, especially in the line-outs, although Young Ikey lock Jordan Thomas is bound to have something to say about that.

Out wide SACS have speed in Thomas Doyle and Kyle Kreymborg, while Bosch’s dangerman Dalvon Blood, who could find himself playing anywhere in the back five, is a very real threat, given half a metre in which to manoeuvre.  Plus, of course, there is wily Conor van Eden pulling the strings.

The mind says Bosch, but the Young Ikeys will be desperate to give their home crowd something with which to psych themselves up ahead of 17 August 2019.

Bishops should hopefully strengthen their win column against the Saints, but matches up in Makana are never gimmes.  Hopefully the fine balance between forwards and backs instilled by Messrs Chetty and Frylinck will prove too hot for the Eastern Cape side to handle.

Oakdale must be wondering about the wisdom of taking a tilt at Grey College, given the relative strength of the two sides, but can take heart from the fact that their meeting takes place right at the end of their campaign.  Had it been earlier, one suspects that the Bulls would have changed their nickname to the Hamburger Patties !

Outeniqua have every reason to be positive about their trip to the Windy City, seeing that Oakdale came close to beating the crack Framesby side in Riversdale last Saturday.

The Quaggas have a large, mobile pack, which is quite capable of scoring tries, something which has unfortunately eluded their backline, with the notable exception of right wing Casten Michaels, this season. 

However, their hosts are a horse of an entirely different colour on their home turf, so a really entertaining encounter is on the cards.

It is heartening to be able to speak highly of some of the lesser sides in the Boland, especially when this Saturday looks set for at least one battle royal when Robertson visit still unbeaten Hopefield.

The lads from Red Wine Central have been ever so slightly off the boil since going down 17-26 to HTS Bellville at the Swartland Festival,  Their 34-22 win in Stellenbosch may have been fairly emphatic, but a 26-22 home win over Overberg and a 29-28 success at Melkbosstrand are hardly the stuff of dreams. 

Next up comes their interschools finale in Ceres against a very accomplished Charlie Hofmeyr side, so Heino Warnich will be dead keen to iron out any problems this week.

Hopefield are just two and half hours away from an unbeaten season.  With all respects, Lutzville, who visit them for interschools in a fortnight, have virtually no chance of upsetting their applecart.  Can Robertson ?  Pitch up at ringside and find out !

Any confidence Charlie Hofmeyr might derive from only having lost twice this season will be more than tempered by the knowledge that their hosts Montagu have only tasted defeat on one more occasion.

The Muscadel Manne have regular try scorers in centre Beon Hartnick and no. 8 Daniel Dooreward, while full-back Jandré Mallet has a fine record from the kicking tee, while the Charlies haven’t exactly swept all their opponents before them.  Next stop for Mike Barnard’s boys is Robertson, as noted above, so the pressure is on.  Should be a very tight contest.

Parel Vallei must be grateful for the chance to cross swords with someone outside the Western Province for a change.  They have a long-standing relationship with Worcester Gym, who have maddeningly mixed success with failure throughout the winter, the scales regrettably favouring the latter.

The Bosvarke only have a fairly simple interschools match away to De Kuilen after this on their dance card, so they’re sure to be ready to give the Bulldogs a good go.

The only WP Premier B match sees a DF Malan side which has performed brilliantly over the last month and a half visit Stellenberg.  One wonders what psychological ploys big Bertus Enslin uses to motivate his side, but a 32-24 away win in Hermanus, of all places, last Saturday makes this a far more interesting encounter than one might have foreseen a few months ago.

Next weekend is a long - and thus - quiet one.  Bishops host Wynberg on the Friday, while Boland Landbou head off to Riversdale for their interschools date with Oakdale on Saturday 10 August 2019.    



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